TEMPE, Ariz. — This game really snuck up on us, didn’t it?
The Cardinals are back at University of Phoenix Stadium for a Thursday night affair with the Minnesota Vikings. The 10-2 Cardinals come in with more momentum than the 8-4 Vikings as well as better health, as the visitors are down a few key defenders tonight.
With a win, the Cardinals would clinch a playoff spot, and coupled with a Seahawks loss on Sunday, would clinch the NFC West.
Also of note, Cards QB Carson Palmer is one touchdown pass away from tying Kurt Warner’s single-season record of 30, so there may be some history tonight.
Anyway, the Cardinals won the coin toss and have chosen to receive.
The roof is open and here we go.
:05 left in fourth quarter
Vikings got greedy and instead of settling for field goal attempt looked to go down the field, and Dwight Freeney made them pay with a sack/strip that Arizona recovered. Cardinals escape with a 23-20 win. Wow.
:23 left in fourth quarter
Vikings pick up a first down and they catch the Cardinals trying to sub when they were spiking it. The penalty was worth five yards, and then a pass down the field was worth even more. Vikings at the Arizona 31, which is a long field goal but still within Walsh’s range. There’s also plenty of time to get closer and try for the end zone.
:44 left in fourth quarter
Vikings pick up a first down but then Tony Jefferson sacks Bridgewater on the next play, forcing Minny to burn its last timeout after a two-yard loss. Cardinals needed a big play and that’s one, another one or two or three wouldn’t hurt as the Vikings are at their own 28.
1:23 left in fourth quarter
Palmer looks for Larry Fitzgerald on 3rd and 16, but it looked like Troy Niklas either deflected the pass or distracted the WR as he just couldn’t haul it in. Chandler Catanzaro drills a 47-yard field goal and the Cards regain the lead, but at 23-20 and with this much time left, it’s far from over.
Vikings have one timeout left, by the way.
1:39 left in fourth quarter
Palmer hits David Johnson on third and six for a HUGE first down to the Minnesota 23, but Kerwynn Williams is stopped for a loss of eight on first down and that’s not what they had in mind. Can’t run out the clock here without another first down, and it’s not a chip shot field goal, either.
1:58 left in fourth quarter
Cards catch a break when a batted Palmer pass falls to Mike Iupati, who catches it and moves forward for the first down. CP then hits Larry Fitzgerald across the middle, and right now it’s second and six at the Minnesota 37. Not quite in field goal range, but getting there. Need at least one more first down to give Catanzaro a chance.
4:50 left in fourth quarter
Kerwynn Williams takes the kick out of the end zone and reaches the 16 — so not a great decision. We’ve got an injured Viking, and it doesn’t look good.
4:55 left in fourth quarter
And we’re all tied up. Wow.
Bridgewater hits a wide-open Mike Wallace for a seven-yard TD. Justin Bethel got lost in coverage, and this game is very much in doubt.
Arizona will get the ball with plenty of time and an offense capable of retaking the lead, but this entire night has had a weird vibe to it. Thursday football, I guess.
6:39 left in fourth quarter
Not that kind of play. Mike Wallace is left open and he picks up 23 yards, pushing the ball to the Arizona 24 and giving Minny a new set of downs. Where’s Arizona’s defense been?
7:06 left in fourth quarter
A roughing the passer penalty on Xavier Williams moves the Vikings forward, as does a dump off to Peterson that went for big yardage. It’s third and nine at the Arizona 47, and the defense could use a play right here.
10:05 left in fourth quarter
With David Johnson icing his knee on the sideline, Kerwynn Williams is the back and he is unable to convert on third and one. Drew Butler is pressured on his punt, but gets it away. With help of a holding penalty on the Vikings, the ball is pushed back to the Minnesota 12. It negates an excellent return, though that return may have been aided by the hold.
Arizona has a seven-point lead so things could be worse, but you kind of get the feeling that 20 points won’t be enough tonight. Big series here for Arizona’s defense. Big, big series.
12:10 left in fourth quarter
Vikings move down the field but drive stalls mostly because of some excellent play from Tyrann Mathieu. He read quick screen and was able to bat it away, and applied pressure on blitzes that forced Bridgewater to make some uncomfortable throws.
Blair Walsh comes on and drills a 54-yard field goal, though, making this a one-score game with plenty of time left. It’s 20-13 Cardinals, but this one ain’t at all close to over.
14:55 left in fourth quarter
Catanzaro connects from 23 yards out, giving the Cardinals a 20-10 lead. Not the way they wanted to finish the drive, but it was a long one that led to points. Arizona’s defense may be a stop here away from putting this one away, but the Vikings have proven to be a tough group to hold back tonight.
End of third quarter
Cardinals fail to punch it in, as a Stepfon Taylor run is short, Palmer is sacked on a play-action and then a pass to Taylor gets them back to the five. So, not a good finish there. Catanzaro is being brought on for a field goal attempt. It’s a big one to make this a two-score game.
1:36 left in third quarter
Johnson is ruled down at the two.
1:46 left in third quarter
David Johnson takes a handoff, bounces to the left and races to the end zone. It’s ruled a touchdown, but he needed 26 yards and may have been a few feet short of paydirt. Either way it was the kind of run that showed why the team is so excited about the back — the speed he possesses with his size is rare, and he’s showing pretty good instincts with the ball.
2:37 left in third quarter
Cardinals still have the ball but not without some tense moments. Xavier Rhodes dropped what should have been an easy interception (and maybe pick-6), and then later on the drive Arizona is forced to convert a 4th and 1 play (which they did). Palmer just hit Darren Fells for 10 yards, and the Cards are at the Vikings 26.
7:08 left in third quarter
Cardinals force a three-and-out, rare for this game, and Patrick Peterson returns the punt to the Arizona 29. You kind of get the feeling Arizona is a touchdown away from really blowing this thing wide open, but at the same time, the Vikings have put up quite a fight tonight.
Arizona’s running game has been solid and it would not be a shock to see them try to ride that a bit, but at the same time the Vikings cannot cover Arizona’s bevy of receivers so Arians has options.
8:31 left in third quarter
Cardinals move some and take a deep shot down the field to John Brown, who takes a shot from the safety over the top as the pass falls incomplete. Next play Palmer hits Michael Floyd on a strange route that had both him and Larry Fitzgerald essentially in the same spot. Fitz threw a block for Floyd, who raced 42 yards for the score.
The score is now 17-10 Cardinals, and with that TD pass Carson Palmer is now a franchise record holder for most touchdown passes in a single season. Says a lot about the kind of season the QB is having as well as the kind of history the franchise has.
11:20 left in third quarter
Vikings roll down the field as the Cardinals struggle to cover Rudolph, but the Vikings go with a reverse that is blown up by Josh Mauro. Adrian Peterson fumbles on the play, and it’s recovered by Alex Okafor. Arizona takes over at its own 43, and this would be a good time for the offense to get into the end zone again.
Thus far the Cardinals have been outplayed, but a couple of turnovers are keeping them in the game. Weird.
14:52 left in third quarter
Vikings will begin their first drive at their own 29. Interested to see what kind of adjustments Arizona’s defense makes — gave up too many big plays, which was probably a side effect from worrying about Adrian Peterson.
Calais Campbell comes up with a sack on third down — Deone Bucannon was close, too — forcing a Vikings field goal attempt. Blair Walsh is good from 44 yards out, and the score is tied at 10-10.
The Cardinals take a knee at the 20 and that’s the end of the half.
Weird half. Neither defense has looked particularly good, yet neither offense has been able to capitalize. Can’t imagine either coach is happy right now, though if I’m the Vikings I’m fairly pleased to be in this spot.
:11 left in second quarter
Vikings having little trouble with Arizona’s defense, as Bridgewater has made some really nice throws. It looked like Arizona’s D was going to get a stop, but Tyrann Mathieu was flagged for holding on a third-down pass, giving Minnesota new life.
It’s third and 10 at the Arizona 15.
2:00 left in second quarter
Cardinals force a third down but Bridgewater hits tight end Kyle Rudolph for a nice gain. Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson just missed breaking the pass up, and it burned the home team. Vikings have the ball at their own 45 along with two timeouts.
3:44 left in second quarter
Arizona moves down the field with some nice Palmer passes and good David Johnson runs, but the drive stalls after Bobby Massie is beaten on third down, leading to a sack. Drew Butler’s punt bounces just shy of the goal line, but Justin Bethel was unable to keep it from bouncing into the end zone. Minnesota takes over at its own 20, and this game, which has featured plenty of yardage, seems to have hit a dry spell when it comes to points.
8:11 left in second quarter
Vikings move down the field with some good Peterson runs and screen passes that are mostly based off of play-action. Obvious Cardinals are making a concerted effort to stop No. 28 — as they should — but they are selling out while doing so and getting burned.
However, just as the Vikings got into the red zone receiver Jarius Wright fumbles while being hit by Deone Bucannon, who comes up with the ball. Assuming the ruling on the field stands, and it looks like it will, the Cardinals will take over at their own 15. Big play as the Vikings seemed poised to at worst tie the game, but likely take the lead.
10-7 Cardinals, by the way.
13:26 left in second quarter
Palmer juuuuuuust misses Michael Floyd down the field on third down, and Drew Butler is brought on to punt. His boot is fair caught at the Minnesota 11, from where the Vikings offense will go to work. No points, but Cardinals flipped the field and that’s never a bad thing.
End of first quarter
The Cardinals forced a three-and-out, and Jeff Locke’s punt is fair caught at the Arizona 28. Cardinals pick up four yards on a first down run and head into the second quarter with good vibes, momentum and a 10-7 lead.
First quarter thoughts: Carson Palmer is really good, Arizona’s run blocking is good, stopping Adrian Peterson is key and I’m not sure if the Vikings will be able to keep up if the Cards can make this a shootout.
1:43 left in first quarter
Cardinals pick up a first down when the Vikings unwisely leave a linebacker to cover John Brown on third down, and then a couple plays later Palmer, after moving around in the pocket and avoiding the rush, hits a wide open Brown who gets a block and races down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown.
Great job by both Palmer and Brown, and credit J.J. Nelson with a block to help spring the WR. Oh, and that touchdown is Palmer’s 30th of the season, tying him with Kurt Warner for the single-season franchise record.
PAT is good and it’s 10-7 Cardinals.
3:57 left in first quarter
That was too easy.
The Cardinals couldn’t stop anything the Vikings did, with passes to Rudolph and strong runs from Adrian Peterson doing the bulk of the late damage. The running back had some nice holes to run through, and reached the end zone on a nine-yard run.
Vikings take a 7-3 lead with the PAT, and this crowd, which has a good amount of fans wearing purple, appears to be in shock.
5:51 left in first quarter
Cardinals force a third and three for the Vikings but don’t account for running back Matt Asiata, who comes out of the backfield and picks up 22 yards. Vikings pick up 11 yards via the air on the following play, and appear to be in good shape moving down the field.
7:23 left in first quarter
Refs decide the call stands, which was a break for the Cardinals. A quick screen to John Brown on second down went nowhere, and then David Johnson could not hang onto a pass on third down. Shame, because he was wide open on the play but seemed to trip as he was running down the field. Chandler Catanzaro comes on and connects for a 27-yard field goal, giving the home team an early 3-0 lead. Not terrible and not as bad as it could have been. But still, you know they’ll be upset about the inability to punch the ball into the end zone.
8:14 left in first quarter
Cardinals go with a quick screen to Jaron Brown, who picks up one yard before hitting the ground. Problem is, the ball came loose and while the refs ruled him down by contact, the Vikings are challenging and it appears they may be right. We’ll see if there’s enough to overturn, but if the refs do reverse the call, then Arizona’s great drive and chance to make an early statement would have disappeared in one of the worst ways possible.
8:48 left in first quarter
The Vikings have offered little resistance as the Cardinals have used a nice mix of accurate Carson Palmer passes and solid David Johnson runs. The offensive line is doing a nice job opening up holes for the rookie back. It’s first and goal at the nine.
11:45 left in first quarter
Cardinals are moving the ball down the field pretty much at will. The Vikings were just called for dual penalties — both of which were declined — as Palmer hits Michael Floyd for a 19-yard gain. Arizona has the ball at the Minnesota 33.